I’ve always been in love with the idea of being able to surf. What other way to spend time than with the sun beating on your back, the smell of the sea strong in your face and the entire ocean at your feet.
“Surfers” however always reminded me of the “in” crowd at school. You know the ones that were always cooler than yourself. They seemed to talk a different lingo, always be popular and more respected.
So when I met Thawn who was pretty normal but also surfed in his spare time - I saw a answer to a slightly selfish prayer. It could be like a couple activity to do, forget candle-lit dinners.
This idea that had crawled into my mind so many years ago and now buzzed around my head was actually going to happen. I told Thawn my idea. I wasn’t prepared for the answer.
“But your balance is terrible, what about even coming and watching us lads - you know? You could take a few pictures? Sit in the car, take a good book?”
I couldn’t believe it. I could lie, say I took his response well. But why lie. If he thought for one mili-second I was going to sit for hours on end, waiting for him , snapping on the old pocket Nikon he had another thing coming.
Let’s just say two weeks to the day I stood kitted up head to toe in neoprene. It was a Saturday mid July. Armed with a huge pink foamy board and standing on a beach on the west coast - I felt ready.
With surfing being the most fastest growing popular sport in Ireland I reasoned that it couldn’t be that hard. Surely all this pre-practicing on the beach was not that necessary? Did I really have to lie on my board in front of everyone and rehearse paddling? It wasn’t exactly the image I had in mind.
I set off. Balanced on my front, paddling like a mad thing into the on coming waves. The further I got paddled out the harder it got. It had been only five minutes but my arms were burning and I felt I hadn’t moved that far. Thawn shouted encouragement from the shore, he was like a over-protective parent. It was embarrassing. Then the inevitable happened.
A wave crept up on me before I had time to react. It swept me off the board and caught the foamy in it’s path. It was thrown sky high and then landed tip down fast onto my head. The world went black.
Being carried over his shoulder in a fireman’s lift was bad enough, but the on shore heckling was terrible. Freezing and cold - reality hit home. I understand the appeal though. If I only saw it briefly, seeing the sea in front of you like a eternal carpet was beautiful. You couldn’t tell where the sea met the sky it was incredible.
There was more to this sport than meets the eye though. It may look cool but it was hard graft and hard- core skill. It would sort the men from the boys.
Maybe sitting in the car with the camera didn’t sound so bad after all.